[UPDATE] Fun With Biased Media

Last week, a Letter to the Editor ran in a local Georgia weekly newspaper. It was the usual pro-gun control drivel, written by a but-owner who really should have known better. “But” then, so should the paper, if informing the public — rather than imposing their own bias — was their goal.

Victim disarmers have local papers (not all, thank G-d), major metropolitan papers, television, Internet sites, search engines

And they’re still afraid to give us, armed with facts, a voice. Because an informed populace is one that would toss their “buts” out into the cold.

Dear Editor,

It is time, time past due, for our congress, state legislators and the National Rifle Association to step up into a rational approach to gun legislation.

In my opinion, we need universal background checks for any gun sale whether that sale takes place at a gun shop, gun show or private transaction. If a sale takes place without a proper background check and if a crime is committed with the weapon, then the seller, show buyer or buyers are all equally guilty of the crime under the law.

In addition, citizens do not need assault weapons, extended capacity clips, sound and flash suppressors, bump stocks, smoke grenades and similar military-grade systems.

Before some readers go off on me, I do not expect, recommend or approve of the government going door to door to gather these items legally purchased. Stop the sales and encourage voluntary surrender. Legal sales of handguns, rifles and shotguns for personal protection and sport should be encouraged through training and expansion of legal gun ranges.

Yes, I am a multiple gunowner, hold a valid carry permit and hunting and fishing license.

Yes, there are other issues on the table that need to be addressed, such as better security at schools and mental health screenings, but now our legislators and the NRA need to step up and get it done.

Jan Friedman
St. Marys

-sigh- It’s so easy to make unsubstantiated claims. It takes a little longer to counter them. Which is a problem with the Tribune-Georgian, as they have a 500 word limit on LTEs. Admittedly, my letter ran 829 words.

Jan Friedman has a wishlist of gun control laws. Sadly, the list indicates ignorance of facts. Let’s consider each item:

“Universal background checks”- More accurately — if awkwardly — referred to as a prior restraint on rights by requiring one to preemptively prove one’s innocence, such checks do not work. Approximately 96% of NICS denials are in error. It may be higher, as the ATF currently has a backlog of tens of thousands of appeals. They are also pointless since the vast majority of murderers, for instance, obtain their weapons through friends, family, and blackmarket sales, completely — and unlawfully — bypassing checks. They do this because 64% of murderers have prior felony convictions (and yet are on the street). 80% of guns used in crime are stolen.

Friedman proposes penalties for firearms used in crimes for which a check was not conducted. Given the cases of the Sutherland Springs, Washington Navy Yards, Charleston church, and Parkland shootings, perhaps the penalties should be on the authorities that never reported prohibited persons to NICS, allowing the criminal and crazed to pass checks.

“Assault weapons”- Except in certain jurisdictions, of which Georgia is not one, there is no such thing. Nonetheless, long arms (rifles and shotguns) are used in a tiny fraction of crimes. The federal “assault weapons ban” of ’94 resulted in no measurable effect on crime, because, before and after passage, weapons meeting that definition were so rarely used as to be lost in the stastical noise. Surely, we can find something more effective. Nor do I think making Geogia more like California is going to find widespread favor around here.

“Extended capacity clips”- Would that be loading stripper clips? En bloc clips? Be aware that stripper clips have nothing to do with weapon capacity, and en bloc clips’ capacity is inherently limited by the weapon design. A Garand with an “extended” clips simply wouldn’t function. Perhaps Friedman needs to brush up on terminology; I can recommend the “Gun Culture Primer” at ZelmanPartisans.com.

“Sound and flash suppressors”- Friedman either is confusing terminology again, or is lumping different devices together. A flash suppressor merely helps keep muzzle flash from obstructing the user’s view (and does nothing to “hide” the flash from other observers as some misinformed people have claimed). A sound suppressor does just that, preventing hearing damage while allowing a shooter — a hunter in the field, for instance — to maintain situational awareness; knowing who and what are around you contributes to safety. Suppressors do not magically silence a firearm as in the movies; a suppressed AR-15 firing 5.56 NATO is audible hundreds of yards away (which is why an unsuppressed firearm is so damaging to hearing).

“Bump stocks”- I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that Friedman thinks “bump stocks” turn semiautomatic weapons into machineguns, or that they increase the firearm’s rate of fire; likely because CNN said so. Sadly for the news media, neither one is physically possible. Turning a rifle into a machinegun requires — illegal — modifications to the internal parts; replacing one stock with another stock cannot do that.

“Smoke grenades”- Jake’s Fireworks will be sorry to hear that. As am I, and Friedman is going to have to explain the rationale behind such a ban.

“Similar military-grade systems”- What “military-grade systems”? Semiautomatic rifles? Can Friedman point to any nation in the world that generally issues semiautomatic rifles to regular troops? That’s something of a hobby of mine, and I can’t find any country that has done so for decades. Most countries began phasing out semiautomatic rifles in the 1950s and ’60s, because they aren’t generally considered militarily useful.

Flash suppressors are common on military rifles; but they’re common… period. Sound suppressors? Not really, outside of special operations, as they add unwelcome weight and bulk to a infantryman’s already overloaded kit. Bump stocks? Tell you what; we should encourage potential opponents to equip their rifles with a stock that adds weight, doesn’t increase rate of fire, does increase malfunctions, and reduces accuracy (and for all those reasons, our military certainly doesn’t use them).

I freely admit, the military uses smoke grenades. So do young, supervised children on the Fourth of July. While I’ve heard of the occasional fatality from misued fireworks, for the life of me I can’t recall any case of death by smoke bomb on the holidays. Perhaps Friedman can help me out with that. (Sparklers, though: there was that one idiot who taped a few hundred sparklers into a tightly bundled pipe bomb and achieved an early meeting with his maker; but I saw that as Darwinian selection, evolution in action.)

America has anywhere from 55 million to 120 million guns owners who have not committed murder. We have as many as a quarter billion firearms that were not used in crimes. It’s high time victim-disarming gun controllers focused on the criminals, and stopped inflicting human/civil rights violations on the people who didn’t commit the crimes.

As expected, word length was a problem.

Your letter is measuring at 870 words. We limit all letter writers to 500 words. You’re welcome to revise and resubmit but your letter must be 500 words for publication.

Well, LibreOffice says 829, but what’s a few dozen words here or there. So I sent a new letter:

Dear Editor,

A common problem with Letters to the Editor in most newspapers is word length. When a writer pens a missive filled with misinformation, that letter can be short, consisting of nothing but brief, unsubstantiated
claims. Often blatantly false claims, which should have been caught by an attentive editor.

When an attentive readers does catch them, and wishes to debunk the misinformation, he has a problem. “Bump stocks turn gun into machineguns” is a mere six words. An explanation of why that is physically impossible, suitable for other readers who may barely realize there is a difference between semiautomatic firearms and fully-automatic, takes considerably more words.

Readers: Jan Friedman wrote a 228 word letter demonstrating a shocking lack of knowledge of firearms and related laws in someone claiming to be a CCW-licensed gunowner. The Tribune & Georgia did not want to waste 829 words on an explanation of why Friedman was factually wrong.

I am sorry that the Tribune & Georgian thinks short lies are preferable to actually informing readers.

(171 words, by the way.)

And the excrement hit the rotary atmospheric impeller. As my letter was critical of the paper itself, the editor apparently bumped it up. The next reply came from the publisher, Jill Helton.

>Mr. Bussjaeger,

I have read the letter to the editor that you submitted for publication and I have no problem publishing your criticism of our policies. However, I also want to be mindful of the claims you are making about Mr. Friedman.

The legal standard is applied to newspapers if that an editor cannot knowingly publish anything false in a letter to the editor. If we are aware of something that isn’t factual, we will correct it. I don’t claim to be a gun expert but I do not see where Mr. Friedman expressed anything factually incorrect. To me, these statements reflect his opinion. Please specifically point me to the statement or statements that you feel are factually incorrect. There other ways to make sure facts are clarified in the newspaper besides running a letter to the editor. Your letter references the statement, “Bump stocks turn (guns) into machine guns,” but Mr. Friedman did not make that statement in his letter. He only expressed that he didn’t feel citizens needed them.

I can appreciate that some topics are complex and take more words to explain, but we have to establish some limit on length because we do not have unlimited space and want to make sure we can accommodate anyone who wishes to write. If you have looked at other print newspapers, you will find our 500 words is quite a lot longer than what most other publications afford.

I do appreciate your readership and look forward to your response.

Thank you,

Jill Helton
Publisher/Editor
Tribune & Georgian
P.O. Box 6960
206 Osborne Street
St. Marys, GA 31558

(912) 882-4927 office
(912) 882-6519 fax
(912) 577-1767 cell

Somehow, I doubt she was really looking forward to it. That cried out for a response:

Ms. Helton,

It’s your paper; you can run anything you want, or not. I’m good with that. Fortunately, I have editorial privileges at multiple national outlets. I just like to reach out to my local community.

> There other ways to make sure facts are clarified in the newspaper besides running a letter to the editor.

Since I’ve offered to write free columns for T&G, and wasn’t taken up on it, I’m unaware of these “other ways.”

> I don’t claim to be a gun expert but I do not see where Mr. Friedman expressed anything factually incorrect.

“In addition, citizens do not need assault weapons, extended capacity clips, sound and flash suppressors, bump stocks, smoke grenades and similar military-grade systems.”

Assault weapons: There is no such thing in the state of Georgia.

Extended capacity clips: While one could “extend” stripper clips, it would have nothing to do with firearm capacity, and would not function as well as a normal clip; the only ones I’ve were nonfunctional novelty items ridiculing gun controllers. There is no such thing as “extended capacity” en bloc clips because that would render a firearm inoperable.

Sound suppressors: Not generally “military-grade” because the military generally doesn’t use them. Citizens should have them for the safety reasons given.

Flash suppressors: Used by the military, and by a lot of civilians
around the world; again, partially for safety reasons as they prevent
obstruction of the user’s view (not to mention keeping the flame from
flammables).

Smoke grenades: Also used by many people including children.

Bump stocks: Please note that I said I was speculating as to Friedman’s thinking. Please point out any error in my assertion that it is impossible for such to render firearms into machineguns (as is commonly claimed in the news media; note that the ATF Technical Branch came to the same conclusion as I on multiple occasions).

“Military-grade”: As used by Friedman, it has no meaning. No military in the world generally issues semiautomatic rifles (which are what are covered in those few jurisdictions that have defined “assault weapon”) to regular troops. The semiautomatic rifles used for a relatively few specialists in the US Army are _civilian_ firearms adopted by the military. The other items are mostly rarely used by the military, and more commonly used by civilians. I could have noted that some countries _require_ sound suppressors so as not to be an audible nuisance.

Additionally, I could have addressed Friedman’s “rational approach to gun legislation” by noting that doing something that already failed for ten years (The Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act of 1994,) may not be rational.

> If you have looked at other print newspapers, you will find our 500 words is quite a lot longer than what most other publications afford.

In fact, I’ve found 750 word limits to be more common, but again… your paper; run it as you wish. The last time I ran afoul of a supposed 500 word limit was in replying to a LTE in another paper than ran over 800. My reply was shorter than the original, but somehow exceeded the limit. Happily, I was able to run it in one of those aforementioned sites, where I suspect it garnered more readers anyway.

Yes, I really had offered T&G free columns at whatever frequency they might want, and any topic. That was well before this little adventure, and was not specifically about firearms or RKBA; just general interest stuff.

But oooh. Ms. Helton didn’t like that a bit:

Mr. Bussjaeger,

You are incorrect that we published a letter to the editor that exceeded the 500-word limit. We have long taken the position that the only fair policy is one that is consistently enforced. Obviously blogs and websites don’t have the same constraints on space that newspapers have, so I am not surprised that those publications have more liberal guidelines for space.

A letter to the editor or opinion column, as you can imagine, is actually the least preferable way to correct an error in the newspaper. We typically will correct errors of fact in the same part of the paper in which the error was made (in this case it would run on the editorial page, probably as an editor’s note). I am sure I could do it in less than the 300 words you used in your response to me and certainly in less than 800 words.

However, I still don’t see anything factually incorrect about Mr. Friedman’s opinion that people don’t need the items listed. His language may not be precise, but his point is clear. It sounds like you are objecting to his inclusion of certain items, but then that is your opinion and not something that requires a correction.

If you wish to contend that his opinion is not valid because he doesn’t know the appropriate terms for the items be listed or you want to argue against their inclusion in that list, then I would considering running that letter. If you want to throw stones at our editorial policies, go ahead. But I can’t let you libel Mr. Friedman in the process. It might be clear in your mind that you meant “bump stocks turn (guns) into a machine gun” as an example, but anyone who was not immediately familiar with Mr. Friedman’s letter would be left with the impression that those were his words. Then you characterize his words as “small lies” at the end of the letter. A lie is an intentional attempt to mislead and I don’t see any reasonable basis to accuse Mr. Friedman of that, based on his letter.

If you wish to submit a letter of 500 words or less that addresses the concerns I have raised, then we would consider running it.

Thanks,

Jill Helton
Publisher/Editor

Friedman’s opinion is invalid, because it’s based on factually wrong claims. He’s entitled to an opinion, but he should expect to be called out on it.

The woman who thinks Friedman’s entire LTE was factually correct can “correct” it in 300 words or less? A newspaper publisher who thinks terminology — when proposing legislation — doesn’t matter?

My reply to Helton:

On 02/27/2018 11:30 AM, Jill Helton wrote:
> Mr. Bussjaeger,
>
> You are incorrect that we published a letter to the editor that exceeded the 500-word limit.

Now, you see? That’s exemplifies the problem. You see what you want, if it supports your position.

“…in another paper…”

That was in response to your statement that 500 word limits are common.

Your paper. Print what you want, or not.

Fact: “Assault weapons” do not exist in Georgia.

Fact: “Military-grade” is a meaningless term as used by Friedman.

Fact: “Extended capacity” en bloc clips are nonexistent, and the only extended stripper clips I have ever seen are nonfunctional novelties (one might as well call for the banning of Star Trek phasers).

You — and Friedman — may not _like_ those, but facts they are.

Again, your paper. Print what you want, or not.

If there is any further correspondence, I’ll add it below.

ETA: And she’s ba-aack…

“In another paper” also could mean another edition of my newspaper. I did assume that’s what you meant since it didn’t make much sense to me that you would expect equal space in the Tribune & Georgian because an entirely different publication chose to publish a long letter.

Which called for another snarky response.

Then it made no sense for you to reference your word limit to other papers.


Carl is an unpaid TZP volunteer. If you found this post useful, please consider dropping something in his tip jar. He could use the money, what with truck repairs and bills.

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4 thoughts on “[UPDATE] Fun With Biased Media”

  1. You are damning this woman, when she is actually quite brilliant. To be able to be intelligent enough to appear that stupid borders on genius. Then again, when compared to every other journalist that I have had the pleasure of interacting with, she is not outstanding, but merely run of the mill. They all appear to be quite stupid. And quite unable to follow facts, unless they adhere to the exact line that the leftist rags dictate. I do hope that if you are a subscriber to this publication, you get the actual hard copy, and not just the electronic version. Then you at least have something to line you bird cage with, or to start you fires, or to compost.

    Honestly, the more I try to understand just where these people are coming from, the farther from there I want to be.

    1. “she is not outstanding, but merely run of the mill.”

      Any damning she did on her own. That she is run of the mill is the point; nearly every editor/reporter I try to deal with acts as a wrong-think gatekeeper.

  2. Just wondering how many heads are going to explode when people not of the gun learn about the new triggers that send a round down range on the pull AND upon release of the trigger – deemed semi-auto by the ATF and deemed 66% of a 3-round burst by me. I bought one and, well, perfect double taps and really fun mag dumps. Bought a second trigger to protect the first one. If unfamiliar, search binary trigger (Franklin Armory) or Echo trigger. Can see a mag dump by the Echo in youtube with a rate accurately measured at > 500 rounds/minute on by ‘The Big Shooterist. I have yet to have an urge to commit mass murder.

  3. Cat vs mouse. In my mind I’m picturing this hand groping frantically for her bottle of Extra Strength Tylenol and a voice muttering, “These gun people! So what does he mean no such things as military grade? I don’t even know what that means, but Jan sounds like he does. These gun people are so picky, always going on about “facts” like they are important or something”.

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